Mar 302011

By Tammy Gray-Searles —

Stimulus funds are being used to continue an underground storage tank (UST) clean up program initiated in 2004, the Navajo County Board of Supervisors learned during a meeting on March 23.

Arizona Department of Environmental (ADEQ) Quality Community Liaison Byron James made a presentation to the board, noting that the clean-up project along Route 66 has been successful, with more than 20 sites cleaned up in the Winslow area alone.

Supervisors learned, however, that the program nearly came to a halt due to state budget cuts, but was reinvigorated with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The stimulus funds were used to keep 23 projects in Arizona, six of which were located in Northern Arizona.

The projects include three in the Holbrook area, two in the Winslow area and one near Clay Springs.

Near Winslow, a cleanup of the old Minnetonka Trading Post site is nearly complete. Tanks abandoned underground for more than 20 years were removed, contaminated surface soils were replaced, and a special injection method was used to clean up contamination deeper underground.

The cleanup will help prevent the contamination from polluting underground water sources.

A video explaining the cleanup project at Minnetonka was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which features Navajo County Supervisor J.R. DeSpain and Winslow Mayor Robin Boyd.

In the video, DeSpain explains that gas stations were prolific along Route 66 in Northern Arizona, but changing times and the construction of the interstate left many abandoned. The underground storage tanks at the stations eventually decayed and began leaking contaminants into the ground.

Robin Boyd pointed out that contaminated sites are unusable and have remained vacant, making it difficult for economic development to occur. Clean up of the sites not only stops the ground and water contamination, but allows the site to be developed.